Slave Labor

Rinko Coal Mine

"We went to work at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning… until 8:30 or 9:00 at night."

“If you were not in the mines, you would take and unload coal off the ships onto railroad cars. We would work every morning about 4:00 am and you did not know where you were going to be, whether in the mine or on the ship or where. Then the next day you would be somewhere else. It all belonged to Rinko coal company in Niigata, Japan. We went to work at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, and worked until 8:30 or 9:00 at night.”

Editor's Note: In his 2018 oral history interview, William Wallace, Jr. shared his interpretation of his father's experiences in Niigata: "But literally they would have to shovel coal, put it in box cars, push it up a hill to a ship, and unload either to the ship or to the train. My father basically unloaded his coal onto a train, and they would put them in groups of four. They would leave around 4:00 in the morning, is when they would be awakened, and they would literally have to walk to the coal mine, which was in Japan itself. And what they would say is the Japanese expected them to fill two railroad cars daily. And what he said most people didn’t realize: there might be small cars and there might be large cars. And what he meant by that: 10-ton, 25-ton. But each group of four was expected to fill two coal cars. So, if you got a 25 and a 10, rather than two 10’s, you might not finish up until 8:00 at night. So, then you had to go back to camp, and if you failed to fill a car, you knew you were subject to a beating. So, that’s the one recollection that he never forgot, was the physical beating and the physical torture. And he talked quite often about his term—and I’m sure I’ve heard this from a lot of other survivors—It became literally survival of the fittest. It became dog eat dog. You’d literally have to look out for yourself. When my father was liberated, he was 6’2, which is my height. He weighed 87 pounds."